Photos by Bobby Reys
While I’m not the world’s biggest fan of music festivals, I try to maintain the mindset that it’s all about perspective. This year at Lollapalooza, while the set list may not have been caked with the crème de la crème of notorious artists, the artists that came through held the festival down and provided quality performances to make this yet another enjoyable year for Lollapaloozers. Icons such as OutKast and Eminem hit the stage, as did Chicago’s own Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. Check out my recap on the artists I saw this Lollapalooza down below.
Portugal. The Man
Being the first band I saw at Lollapalooza this year, Portugal. The Man opened with “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” and established a positive tone for my entire Lolla experience. At first glance, the combination of an all-white clothing selection (minus a red and black Blackhawks hat) and a striking falsetto had resulted in John Gourley, the band’s lead singer, to appear as if he had just graced Grant Park with his presence after kicking it in the heavens. Along with that characteristic falsetto, which sounds extraordinarily more refined live, he kept the energy high with songs predominantly from Evil Friends, such as “Atomic Man”, “Modern Jesus”, and “Creep in a T-Shirt”as well as hits from In the Mountain In the Crowd, like “So American” and “All Your Light (Times Like These)”. I was hoping for the high-energy tunes to be balanced out by some of their slower reflective music, such as “Sleep Forever” or “Sea of Air”, but the invaluable enthusiasm rippling throughout their set made blaring out their dark lyrics to buoyant and uplifting beats completely okay, too.
I showed up to see Lykke Li’s performance almost strictly due to nostalgia I associate with “I Follow Rivers”. Aside from hearing that song, trying to figure out how to properly pronounce her name, and using her set as an outlet to leisurely bop around, I didn’t come in with any other particular anticipation. While setting low expectations often provides the ideal framework for being surprised, saying I was “surprised” is too underwhelming for a description of how her performance made me feel. Following each subsequent song she performed from I Never Learn, Wounded Rhymes, and Youth Novels, I would freeze up, completely washed over by the sensual spirituality her presence evoked on stage. Her eyes would gaze beyond the crowd, extending a stare that acknowledged pain but simultaneously transcended it through her music, and hinted that perhaps Lykke Li knew something about life that none of us in the audience knew. It was an aching stare that can only be elicited by true legends, or one that I specifically imagine the late Amy Winehouse to have been the master of while she was still with us.
Lykke Li’s soothing and gentle vocals were magical, the set’s sound quality itself, unparalleled, and her comfortable yoga pants/all-black apparel gave her an “I can wear whatever the fuck I want, you don’t know what I’ve been through” badass boss-girl look that pelted her high up on my girl-crush list, and even higher up on my artists-that-I-can’t-stop-listening-to-post-Lolla list. Although I am still unsure as to how to pronounce her name, whenever she makes a move back to Chicago and to a venue where the acoustics will contribute all the melodious justice she deserves, there’s no doubt that I’ll be there.
“What the fuck, Slim?” is the question that kept repeating itself over and over in my mind throughout his entire set. His performance was saturated with his new music, all until he made the out-of-left-field move to perform “White America”; a tilted black and white flag with the song’s title written on it waved on all three screens in front of the crowd, while the audience, not knowing the majority of song lyrics, would chime in at every blared “White Americaaaaa”. I was irritated, specifically at the crowd for bouncing around without understanding the message of the song nor the rest of its lyrics, but also at Eminem for choosing this specific track to kick his throwbacks off with, setting off a discomforting tone amongst the crowd of bros who were working their red, white, and blue bandanas to the fullest.
In regards to more of his old music, there was a point in his performance mirroring his set in 2012 where he preluded his infamous hits with the question: “Chicago, do you want me to relapse with ya’ll tonight?” This time, he asked, “Chicago, do you want me to take you back to the days when I used to get fucked up?” to which the audience went wild, only to receive a weak medley of a few of the classics in return, including “Like Toy Soldiers”, “Sing for the Moment”, “Without Me”, and “Lose Yourself”. While Slim wants to move away from the days that brought him so much pain and struggle, the hits he created in those days established his entire artistic identity. Ultimately, the highlight of his set was when he brought out Rihanna for three songs, and particularly when she sang Dido’s verse in “Stan”. Girl should’ve taken over the entire thing from that song on, because she truly stole his show.
I stopped by Lorde’s performance for two or three songs to fill a gap of my time in which I wasn’t hustling to see any other particular artist. We can all agree that Lorde has an impressive voice and an even more impressive career for a 17-year old girl. Regardless, in retrospect, I would’ve most likely been better off spending that gap of time I had double-fisting deep dish pizza and fried chicken instead of sifting through the crowd to hear any of her tunes. Her audience extended a long ways back, and ultimately, maneuvering through a sea of young girls bonding over statements like “I have curly hair, too! Yeaaaah!!!” made me quit my mission before launching full throttle in pursuit of getting closer to the front. Walking away from her performance area, I kept imagining I was hearing “Royals”, but it would repeatedly turn out to be another song with similar beats. I leave praising Lorde to the committed fans that stuck through it all.
Fitz and The Tantrums
Similarly to Portugal. The Man, Fitz and The Tantrums kill it so much more effectively live than they do via studio produced albums. Live, the voices of both lead vocalist Michael Fitzpatrick and vocalist Noelle Scaggs are amplified in quality, as is the saxophone played by James King. And in person, Scaggs rocks the majority of the stage with her presence, whereas through albums alone, I’m hardly ever cognizant of her role within the band.
Fitz and The Tantrums’ set, in general, was dominated with energy, and appropriately so, considering their performance slot was at 4:15pm and assisted by the blaring heat of the Chicago sun, which finally chose to make an appearance after escaping us for most of Friday and Saturday. Whether hot or not, songs from More Than Just a Dream, including “Out of My League”, “6am”, “Break the Walls”, and “The Walker” kept the audience jiving all the way through. We were appreciating the band’s consistently cheerful vibes and their vocalized recognition that the city of Chicago played one of the most critical roles in putting them on the map as artists.
Watching Vic Mensa make moves from Whitney Young High School student to Kids These Days vocalist to solo artist will always secure him a warm spot within my heart. It’s been touching watching him grow as a Chicago-based artist, and I love seeing his name on set lists for large performances, especially Chicago festivals like Lollapalooza. This is my second time seeing Vic at Lolla, and specifically at the BMI Stage where Twista made a guest appearance in 2013. Whereas last year I recognized many of the spectators around me, this time I couldn’t identify a single one. I’m considering this as a good thing, considering his fan base is spreading like wildfire, reaching not only the east and the west coast, but growing quickly in Europe and in the UK. During his set, Vic graced us with newer tracks including “Down on My Luck” and “Feel That”, and even made sure to bring it back to the Kids These Days days with “Don’t Harsh My Mellow”. It’s always a pleasure to support him whenever he’s in the Chi.
You have officially snoozed if you were at Lollapalooza this year and missed OutKast’s performance. They accumulated an audience reminiscent of The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s’ audience count back in 2012, and kept things flawlessly grovin’ for the full hour and forty-five minutes. At around 9:30, they played “Hey Ya!” and had me worried about how they were planning on filling up the remaining 30 minutes of their slot, but keeping it cool and collected, they brought it back to “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Int’l Players Anthem” and kept us coasting without missing a beat.
Seeing Chromeo at Lollapalooza was my third time seeing Chromeo perform in the city of Chicago. They had me committed as a band from the day I designated a now ex-boyfriend of mine as my “Tenderoni” in 2009, and will continue to keep me hanging on purely due to Fancy Footwork. Their new music doesn’t sustain my interest much, but it’s been wonderful watching them transition from Congress Theater to Lollapalooza and seeing them grow as artists.
My Flosstradamus experience was moist, muddy, and everything you’d expect for a Flosstradmus experience at Perry’s to be. I spent most of my time blindly pushing wylin’ mosh-pitters out of my face and trying to avoid licking up as much foreign sweat as I possibly could. However, I came in knowing I’d have to get through this with the mindset of a 16-year-old me who was way more about this type of life, and who had a great deal more of both energy and tolerance for the young and reckless.
While Floss is known to live up to their reputation of creating a good time, which they did, there were times when I wondered why they’d spin played out tunes like “Roll Up the Grass” into their set, or why they didn’t stick to a more Girl Talk-esque mélange of songs instead of repeatedly dragging out traditional EDM beats. Either way, I loved when they incorporated trap songs like “Move That Doh”, and found myself grooving along to whatever their hearts put out for us.
Chance the Rapper
It gives me just as much joy to see Chance the Rapper perform as it does to see his brother Vic Mensa. This time, however, Chance set the bar at a different height, with this being his first-ever time to headline Lollapalooza. It was a very special experience seeing him share the stage with artists Peter CottonTale, Eryn Allen Kane, and Donnie Trumpet (aka Nico Segal) to list a few, and to hear the audience spit lyric after lyric back at him from both #10Day and Acid Rap. The positive energy amongst the crowd was incredible to vibe off of, as it was just watching him represent CPS, an entire generation, and city.
In addition to tracks off of #10Day and Acid Rap, Chance played “Wonderful Everyday”, brought out Vic and * pause * R. Kelly, and he owned all of that shit. You could see it in his eyes that he was very grateful to be where he’s at, and we hope he’s back to headline many more Lolla shows to come.